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New Genome Profiling Technique Identifies Weak Points in Breast Cancer Cells

August 2, 2011
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•    Technique designed to identify Achilles’ heel of breast cancer.
•    Method could apply to other cancer types if validated.
•    AACR to host teleconference on Aug. 2, 2011, at 10:00 a.m. ET.

PHILADELPHIA — New research published in Cancer Discovery, the newest journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, details a large-scale project in genetic profiling that has identified many of the weak points in breast tumor cells.

Alan Ashworth, Ph.D., chief executive officer of the Institute of Cancer Research in London, said the quest for a more personalized approach in cancer treatment has driven him and his colleagues to identify those genes upon which breast tumor cells are completely dependent. Ashworth and his colleague Christopher Lord, Ph.D., see this project as the first step toward the development of better treatments for the disease.

“We’ve already had significant success in identifying some of the genes that are highly active in breast cancer and then blocking them, such as HER2. Our new work shows there are many other ways of doing this by using some of the inherent weaknesses found in breast cancer cells,” said Ashworth.

José Baselga, M.D., Ph.D., co-editor-in-chief of Cancer Discovery and chief of hematology/oncology at the Massachusetts General Hospital, moderated a teleconference on this research on Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2011, at 10:00 a.m. ET.

Listen to a recording of the teleconference.

Download* the mp3 of the teleconference (30.2 MB, 32 minutes and 56 seconds)

In addition to Baselga, the following panelists participated in this AACR-hosted teleconference:

•    Alan Ashworth, Ph.D., chief executive officer of the Institute of Cancer Research in London;
•    Christopher Lord, Ph.D., senior staff scientist at Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Center at the Institute of Cancer Research in London; and
•    René Bernards, Ph.D., professor of molecular carcinogenesis at The Netherlands Cancer Institute in Amsterdam.

Ashworth and Lord performed high-throughput RNA interference screening in more than 30 commonly used models of breast cancer to identify a series of genes upon which breast cancer cells rely. This method identified potential therapeutic targets for PTEN-mutated cancers and for ER-positive breast cancers.

“We showed that large-scale functional profiling allows the classification of breast cancers into subgroups distinct from the established subtypes,” said Ashworth.

According to Lord, this work is the starting point for the development of new drugs for the disease. “We want to refine each patient’s treatment according to the specific type of disease they have. To do this we first need to know where the weaknesses are in breast cancer cells and to then develop drugs that hit these weak spots. With this new information we can start to do that,” said Lord.

Ashworth is a principal on the Stand Up To Cancer Breast Cancer Subtypes Dream Team.
 
“Stand Up To Cancer has provided funding that is vitally important, and through the Dream Team framework they also provided the collaborative structure that was necessary for our research,” said Ashworth. “The ability to collaborate with other team members and share genetic data has been vital and will continue to be necessary as we apply this finding to other cancer tumor types.”

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The mission of the American Association for Cancer Research is to prevent and cure cancer. Founded in 1907, the AACR is the world’s oldest and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research. The membership includes 33,000 basic, translational and clinical researchers; health care professionals; and cancer survivors and advocates in the United States and more than 90 other countries. The AACR marshals the full spectrum of expertise from the cancer community to accelerate progress in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer through high-quality scientific and educational programs. It funds innovative, meritorious research grants, research fellowships and career development awards. The AACR Annual Meeting attracts more than 18,000 participants who share the latest discoveries and developments in the field. Special conferences throughout the year present novel data across a wide variety of topics in cancer research, treatment and patient care. Including Cancer Discovery, the AACR publishes seven major peer-reviewed journals: Cancer Research; Clinical Cancer Research; Molecular Cancer Therapeutics; Molecular Cancer Research; Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention; and Cancer Prevention Research. AACR journals represented 20 percent of the market share of total citations in 2009. The AACR also publishes CR, a magazine for cancer survivors and their families, patient advocates, physicians and scientists.

About Stand Up To Cancer

Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) — a program of the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF), a 501(c)(3) charitable organization — raises funds to accelerate the pace of groundbreaking translational research that will get new therapies to patients quickly.

SU2C’s “Dream Team” approach to funding translational cancer research enables scientists from different disciplines at research centers across the country and internationally to collaborate on projects geared toward getting new, less toxic treatments to patients as quickly as possible. Monies also support innovative cancer research projects that are often deemed “too risky” by conventional funding sources. Currently, 355 scientists from 55 institutions are involved in SU2C-funded research projects – either as members of Dream Teams or as recipients of Innovative Research Grants. As SU2C’s scientific collaborator, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), led by a prestigious SU2C Scientific Advisory Committee, provides scientific oversight, expert review of the research projects, and grants administration.

Members of the SU2C Executive Leadership Council include Katie Couric; the Entertainment Industry Foundation, represented by Board of Directors Chairperson Sherry Lansing (Founder of the Sherry Lansing Foundation), CEO Lisa Paulsen and Senior Vice President Kathleen Lobb; Rusty Robertson and Sue Schwartz of the Robertson Schwartz Agency; Pam Williams, partner at Laura Ziskin Productions; and nonprofit executive Ellen Ziffren. The late Laura Ziskin, a legendary film producer who executive produced the 2008 and 2010 SU2C telecasts, was also a co-founder of Stand Up To Cancer. 

For more information go to www.standup2cancer.org.

Media Contact:
Jeremy Moore
(267) 646-0557
Jeremy.Moore@aacr.org

 *On a PC, right mouse click on the “Download” link and select “Save link as…” in Firefox or “Save Target as…” in Internet Explorer.

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